August 13, 2004
In response to the announcement on Tuesday that NorSun Food Group Inc. will be closing its Fort Kent potato processing plant, the University of Maine at Fort Kent is offering its assistance by providing displaced workers a tuition waver on one three-credit university course.
That word from UMFK President Richard Cost, who is extending the university's assistance to help retrain NorSun workers.
"We are prepared to help those people who may be looking for new opportunities. Our mission, as a public university, is to serve the educational needs of the people of this region. This is one way we can meet that commitment," said UMFK President Richard Cost.
At current in-state tuition rates, a three-credit UMFK course would cost $396 plus additional student fees. The campus hopes that NorSun employees availing themselves of the opportunity to enroll in a course of their choice will both learn about the college experience, as well as possibly find a university program that interests them and could lead to a new career.
"It is crucial that UMFK, and other higher education institutions, be prepared to work with people affected by a downturn in the economy. When jobs become scarce people seek the skills they will need to take advantage of better opportunities that lie ahead," said Cost.
The tuition waiver on a three-credit course is the first step university officials have outlined to assist NorSun workers. UMFK is also opening its doors to any displaced employees who are seeking information on what options exist for them in higher education.
"We welcome any NorSun employees who have any questions about attending college. We can provide information about various programs and which ones might be best suited for each individual; discuss requirements, possible courses of interest, and what financial aid opportunities might exist," said Melik Khoury, UMFK director of admissions. "The admissions office is committed to sitting down with any of the workers who just want to know what's available."
According to Khoury, his office is currently prepared to meet individually with any employee contacting the admissions office.
This will not mark the first time UMFK extends an offer of assistance to displaced workers in the St. John Valley.
The same three-credit course tuition waiver was made available to employees of Kent Inc. when that facility closed early last year, and to laid-off workers of Fraser Papers in Madawaska, when that company announced a downsizing in the spring of 2003.
NorSun employees looking for more information on the three-credit tuition waiver or for counseling on options in higher education are encouraged to contact the admissions office at (207) 834-7600.